During a career in academia that has spanned more than a decade, Alex Carlson says she found her calling in roles that allowed her to build relationships with students and ensure that their time as learners is fulfilling inside and outside the classroom.
It’s a passion that led Carlson, an alumna of Western Michigan University, to WMed where she began her role as the new Director of Student Life and Well-Being on August 15.
“I enjoy making those connections with students and I came to WMed specifically for the opportunity to work with our graduate student population,” Carlson said. “There’s just a different level of passion that students have when they know exactly what they want to do.”
Prior to coming to WMed, Carlson served for four years as the program and events manager for the KCC Foundation at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek. In that role, Carlson said she was charged with coordinating fundraising events and building relationships with donors. She also oversaw the foundation’s scholarship program, which awarded more than 600 scholarships per year.
Her experience at KCC came on the heels of a stint at the Illinois Institute of Technology where Carlson worked for eight years, the last four of which were spent as the director of Campus Life. At Illinois Tech, Carlson said she worked closely with master’s and PhD students from the institution’s engineering and architecture programs. She also oversaw more than 800 events per year and worked with student organizations to coordinate conference travel and presentations.
Carlson earned her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from WMU in 2008 and followed that up in 2010 with a master’s degree from WMU in Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership.
A native of Olympia, Washington, Carlson said she fell in love with the Midwest after arriving to WMU as a freshman in 2005. She met her husband at Western and quickly established a core group of friends she remains close with to this day, she said.
“It always felt like home here and it always felt very welcoming – this part of Michigan especially – and there is a lot to do,” Carlson said.
As she hits the ground running at WMed, Carlson said she is focusing her time on meeting students from the MD program, as well as the Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences and Master of Science in Medical Engineering degree programs. She’s also learning more about the array of student interest groups and student organizations at WMed, and determining how best to help those groups and organizations grow and collaborate.
In addition to those efforts, Carlson said she is excited about the wellness component of her role.
“So often, with students who have been high achievers and never struggled or not been selected for something, there are some things that are going to hit you really hard at this level,” Carlson said. “I think it’s really important we share with these future doctors how they can best take care of themselves, as a whole human. The support we provide them now will help them grow in their wellness journey, which is always ongoing.”